Workplace Issues Today

Companies looking to attract and keep talented workers are finding it easier if their locations are near public transit areas. Recent examples include Amazon’s choice of New York and Washington, D.C., for their second and third corporate headquarters, as well as McDonalds, who moved their Oakbrook, Illinois headquarters to a location in downtown Chicago near the subway and regional rail lines, even though 97% of their employees at that point were arriving to work by car due to the rural location. They made the move after finding during the recruitment process that some applicants confessed they shouldn’t have applied due to lacking a car, which can be common among millennial applicants. Current employees at the new McDonald’s headquarters have adjusted and approximately 90% arrive to work via other means besides a personal vehicle. Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council had recently done a report which found that 60% of all new jobs created in Chicago since 2005 are in areas with high-quality transit. Within a quarter mile of a subway or regional rail station, jobs grew at a rate of 20 percent, more than twice the growth rate in the whole region. The nation’s transit systems as a whole, however, are aging and in need of repairs and upgrades, and this may limit economic growth.

San Francisco workers in seven Marriott properties have agreed to a new contract that will give housekeepers a $4 wage increase over a four-year term, improved pensions, preserved lifetime health care benefits, as well as protections against sexual harassment. It ends a 9-week strike in that city, as well as a nationwide Marriott worker protest that involved 7,700 workers in several states, although the strike in San Francisco had been particularly adversarial with more than 100 union employees arrested since October 4. Housekeepers will also receive a reduced workload that increases over the life of the contract. In terms of protections against sexual harassment, employees now have the choice of not having further contact with the guest, and if the report is credible the hotel will evict the guest. All employees who deal with guests alone will receive a silent GPS-enabled panic button to summon help in unsafe situations. While the financial agreements have varied with the hotels in different cities, the sexual harassment terms are included in all contracts.

While a new national study suggests that there is increasingly broad support for gender equality at work over time, it has also determined that approximately a quarter of people surveyed had more complicated views about gender equality and whether that differs between work and home. The General Social Survey, conducted by a research group at the University of Chicago, is an ongoing study that has collected responses from 27,000 people over four decades, regarding whether it is better when a man is a breadwinner and a woman takes care of the home and family; whether children suffer when mothers work; and whether men are better suited for politics than women. While it is not surprising that people in successive generations are likely to become more egalitarian, some of the researchers were surprised that millennials weren’t more equable, with other recent studies finding young people relying on traditional gender roles more than would be expected, particularly after having children. Paid family leave, subsidized child care and flexible schedules are not widespread in the U.S., where American parents were found to be the most unhappy when compared with non-parents, in another study that measured happiness in 22 English-speaking and European countries. Women, people with college degrees, African-Americans, and people who lived in the Northeast were most likely to believe in gender equality at work or home.

Teachers in Ireland are planning to engage in collective activity following the offer of a 3% pay increase. Teachers’ unions would like a 10% pay increase, and have been petitioning for a raise since October when a national rally for teachers was held. At least 30,000 are believed to have attended the rally in favor of the pay increase. The largest teachers’ union, EIS, plans to begin pay negotiations on Monday and intends to vote on a strike in January if an offer for better wages is not reached.

See BBC News UK, Dec 3 2018

The South African union, NUM, which represents Gold Fields Ltd.’s employees is now urging members to end a strike that began last month. Workers went on strike following the firm’s decision to lay-off 400 contractors and over 1,000 employees. The union recently stated that the strike is counterproductive- it “threatens” the mining jobs that remain. The South Deep mine has suffered from over a decade of “poor performance.” However, a spokesperson for Gold Fields has stated that the firm would be willing to offer workers a settlement offer if they agree to end the strike.

See Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg, Dec 3 2018

Last week, the Thai government ratified the ILO Convention on work in fishing- making Thailand the first Asian country to ratify Convention number 188. The convention creates requirements for working conditions in the fishing trade, in order to eliminate worker exploitation. The executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum has stated that Thailand’s ratification of Convention number 188 is a step in the right direction, however, there is still work to be done. If Thailand would like to create sustainable change in an industry that is susceptible to labor abuse, the country must also ratify conventions 87 and 98 which protest workers’ rights to organize, form unions, and bargain with their employers. Additionally, Thailand must allow migrant workers to form their own unions, as this population tends to be especially vulnerable.

See Asia Times, Dec 3 2018

In China, two union officials have been detained for attempting to help workers at Jasic International organize a union. This is the latest development in the Communist Party’s attempts to repress labor activism in China; the government does not approve of grassroots movements or protests. Earlier this year when Jasic workers tried to unionize, the company proceeded to fire workers who had been engaging in collective activity. This incited protests from activists and students alike, many of whom have since been detained for their involvement.

See Christian Shepherd, Reuters, Nov 30 2018

An investigative panel in Malaysia recently looked into claims made by the Wall Street Journal that accused palm oil producer, FGV Holdings, of engaging in exploitative labor practices. The investigation revealed that the firm has been employing contractors to recruit and hire foreign laborers, which is against Malaysian immigration law. Workers endure poor living conditions- they lack access to food and other necessities. Additionally, their contractors are not transparent regarding wages and take workers’ passports, thus limiting their mobility. In response to the investigation, FGV Holdings has stated that it intends to hire workers, if possible, and better their conditions immediately.

See A. Ananthalakshmi and Emily Chow, Reuters, Nov 30 2018

The English Shipbuilder, Cammell Laird, claims to have lost £1.5 mil as a result of union strikes. The strikes occurred following the firm’s decision to eliminate nearly 300 jobs. Chief executive John Syvret has expressed his opinion that the strikes have been counterproductive because they have threatened the future of the business. Customers do not want to engage with the company when it is struggling to resolve labor unrest. However, Syvret has also expressed a commitment to working with the union in order to protect jobs, secure more contracts, and produce joint gains. Union representatives’ opinions are not present in this article.

See BBC News, Nov 30 2018

Marriot International has reached a settlement to end strikes by hotel workers at seven locations across the United States. Nearly 8,000 workers, represented by the UNITE HERE union, went on strike in October demanding a living wage, among other goals. Representatives for UNITE HERE are withholding details of the agreement until a remaining strike at Marriott Hotels in San Francisco is resolved, but described the wage increases won as "historic". The settlement is encouraging for the union as contracts at an additional 25 non-Marriott hotels expire this week. Although those contract negotiations are ongoing, the union retains the option of asking workers to go on strike in the next month.

See Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times, Nov 29 2018

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has sued the NLRB challenging the so-called "settlement bar" restricting workers' ability to decertify their union. Under the rule, the NLRB is still obligated to process a petition decertifying a union on behalf of employees, even if a settlement agreement has been reached with the employer. The rule, in place since 1951, is meant to stabilize relations between workers and management, according to labor experts. Conservative groups such as the National Right to Work Foundation, however, charge the "settlement bar" precedent goes against the intentions of the National Labor Relations Act, which they state only applies to unions that have the support of the majority of workers. The NLRB itself has not commented on the lawsuit.

See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Nov 29 2018

The graduate and postdoctoral unions at Columbia have recently voted 1035 to 720 to ratify a bargaining framework created by the University. The ratification of this framework means that the unions will be able to start bargaining, following four year of waiting for recognition. Additionally, the strike that the unions were planning for December will not be taking place. A few concerns have arisen regarding Columbia’s bargaining framework; one is that according to the terms set forward by the University, the unions are not allowed to strike or halt labor in any capacity until 2020. Additionally, the framework states that the University has the “exclusive right to manage its academic decision-making and educational and research mission.” Ultimately the unions are eager to commence bargaining.

See Karen Xia, Columbia Daily Spectator, Nov 28 2018

Hungary officials wrote a bill that would increase the amount of overtime that employees can be forced to work in an attempt to address the country’s labor shortage. The bill would increase the number of extra hours that employers can force their employees to work from 250 to 400, annually. The proposal has not been well received by the opposition, who has called it a “slave law.” On Tuesday night, the proposal was debated in a parliament meeting where labor unions threated to plan a nationwide protest unless the bill was modified. In response to this warning, officials have agreed to alter the bill so that the extra hours are voluntary rather than mandatory.

See Zoltan Simon, Bloomberg, Nov 28 2018

The Seventh-day Adventist church is attempting to bring a member’s religious accommodation case to the Supreme Court after it was dismissed by a lower court. The plaintiff is a former Walgreens training instructor who was fired for refusing to work on Saturday, the Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath. The plaintiff’s case was presented in front of a federal appeals court, which ruled in Walgreen’s favor stating that the employer had provided reasonable accommodations to the best of their ability. Additionally, the court decided that employing someone who was unable to work on Saturday created an undue hardship for the employer. In approaching the Supreme Court with this matter, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is contesting Title VII’s definition of “undue hardship,” and has received support from numerous religious groups in this endeavor.

See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Nov 28 2018

General Motors announced yesterday it would be cutting nearly 15,000 jobs at five North American factories it intends to close, due to declining sales for traditional motor engine cars, as it seeks to switch gears to hybrid and electric car production. This would be the biggest restructuring the company has faced since its bankruptcy in 2009. President Trump, who has advocated for increased manufacturing and for whom Ohio is a key state in the 2020 presidential election, was critical of the move. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union promised to fight the labor cuts as while some GM workers will find jobs at other factories, most will be facing uncertain futures. The salaried workforce, which includes engineers and executives, will also shrink by 15 percent, roughly 8,000 jobs.

Poultry workers at large chicken processing plants in the U.S. face working conditions that allow little or no time for bathroom visits outside official breaks, often requiring permission from absent supervisors who hold discretion over such requests. Bathroom facilities can be located far from processing lines, resulting in shorter official breaks. Workers at the third-largest company, Sanderson Farms in Texas, as well as representatives from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which represents poultry workers in Texas and Louisiana, confirm that employees sometimes go to the bathroom on themselves rather than leave the processing line, and that working conditions/break availabilities improve whenever OSHA is conducting an inspection. The industry’s high turnover rate results in poor staffing that can prevent adequate coverage for breaks. Poultry workers often belong to demographic groups that may fear employer retaliation due to their vulnerable socio-economic status.

In its 2017 audit of state-run OSHA programs, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified Kentucky to be more deficient in workplace safety standards than any other state. Kentucky is one of 28 states which the federal agency has authorized to run its own worker safety program. The federal agency runs a yearly audit on the 28 state plans to ensure that their programs are equivalent to federally-supported states. Kentucky was determined to be understaffed, with particular shortcomings in investigating deaths on-the-job, as in one case where the Kentucky OSH inspector didn’t interview the sole eyewitness, failed to document employee interviews and missed possible safety violations at the worksite. The Department of Labor is working with Kentucky on a corrective action plan.

Over 100,000 travelers were impacted Monday by an Austrian transportation strike. Trains did not run for two hours, following union negotiations wherein the union did not feel that its waged-related demands were being met. The union has described this transportation disruption as a “warning strike.” Presently, it is unclear whether or not more strikes are to occur. Austria is geographically situated between eight countries, thus making it an important travel center; it is important for many people that rail transportation operates consistently.

See Francois Murphy, Reuters, Nov 26 2018

Nurses at Indiana Regional Medical Center went out on strike at 7am this morning, and plan to remain on the picket lines for the rest of the day. On the 19th of this month, the union presented management with their final offer, and then proceeded to plan a strike. The union has demanded a 3% wage increase every year and increases to health insurance, in response tp management’s plans to decrease nurses’ take home wages. In response to the strike, hospital management has brought in replacement workers to maintain normal hospital services. The replacement workers and the costs associated with their travel and lodging is estimated to cost the hospital around $1.5 million, which management intends to deduct from their initial budget for nurses’ wages.

See Chauncey Ross, The Indiana Gazette, Nov 26 2018

Laborers at an oil refinery in Normandy, owned by Total, have begun to halt production in response to a dispute over pay and bonuses that began last week. This industrial activity is contributing to an ongoing strike in the oil sector. Workers at Total’s other refineries are also engaging in protests and work stoppages. It is unclear when the strikes will cease, and the firm has refused to comment on the issue.

See Bate Felix, Reuters, Nov 26 2018

Foreign ramen noodle shop workers have decided to form a union in Japan. The ramen noodle chain restaurant employs approximately 9,000 employees, with 3,000 of them now becoming union members. Many of the members of the newly formed union are part time. The chain’s management has expressed a firm belief that the union will be positive for the firm as it will allow for better communication between management and workers. Additionally, a spokesperson for the chain’s management stated that the firm believes that workers unionized in an attempt to secure greater protection of their rights, and the firm acknowledges that foreign workers may need greater support as they adjust to the Japanese work style.

See Magdalena Osumi, The Japan Times, Nov 21 2018

There may soon be a nationwide teachers’ strike taking place in the UK. The leaders of the largest teachers’ union in the country, the National Education Union (NEU) recently encouraged their members to strike. Both leaders expressed their belief that the government will not respond to anything but strike activity. The unions’ upset is in response to government funding plans- teachers do not feel that the government is offering schools enough financial support.

See Kevin Rawlinson, The Guardian, Nov 21 2018

1,700 county employees in San Luis Obispo may strike as early as December. If these employees do go on strike, this will be the first government employee strike to ever have occurred in this county. County employees are displeased because they received a wage increase that did not meet their needs and did not seem to take into consideration the increasingly high living costs in their area. Employees recently told county officials that they intend to strike unless their demands are met, which include a 2.5% wage increase.

See Monica Vaughan, The Tribune, Nov 21 2018

While most of the nation has steadily regained their labor force since the 2009 recession, Wyoming's labor force has decreased by 5.1% during this time period, followed by West Virginia at 4.5%. Both states had previously relied heavily on coal production as their economic driver. Jobs have been lost in the coal industry as natural gas becomes a cleaner alternative. Both states lack economic diversity to offer workers other alternatives. Businesses that offer high wages are unlikely to be attracted to states that lack a highly skilled workforce; as a result, workers are leaving to look for jobs elsewhere. From 2016 tot 2017, Wyoming's population dropped by nearly 6,000 while West Virginia’s population decreased by almost 13,000. Other obstacles include high opioid use, and an aging population that is unlikely to seek other opportunities if they are close to retirement.

The largest nurses’ union in Ireland is encouraging nurses to strike over low wages. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has claimed that low wages are preventing health centers from adequately recruiting nurses, which has caused a nurse shortage. This shortage of staff inhibits nurses’ ability to treat their patients. If the union ballot is passed, nurses will strike for 24 hours and will continue striking until conditions improve. During strikes, nurses will only provide necessary and life-saving care. The government has attempted to intervene to better nurses’ conditions, however nurses have expressed that the government is not adequately listening to their complaints.

See Martin Wall, Irish Times, Nov 19 2018

Unionized dinner ladies (cafeteria workers) at a primary school in Grimethorpe, England have been engaging in strike activity since September over unfair wages. Most recently, the dinner ladies’ upset has been fueled by the purchase and costly training of a school dog, named George. The dog, who was intended to be a calming companion for the children, has cost the school £2,170 in training fees. Dinner ladies are paid between £2,000 and £2,500 annually. The school’s supposed reason for not raising cafeteria ladies’ wages was a tight budget. It is understandable that the dinner ladies would be upset to learn that the school has spent thousands of dollars on a dog.

See BBC News, Nov 19 2018

Federal female prison employees have faced harassment and demeaning working conditions long before the #MeToo movement lifted the curtain on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment. In a 2010 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report, it was found that the Bureau of Prisons, which employs over 10,000 female employees, had fumbled the ball on harassment claims and that retaliation was high; women who report problems can find themselves stalled on career opportunities. In one extreme case, a case manager who had been raped was charged with raping her attacker. In 2017, the Bureau of Prisons agreed to pay a $20 million settlement to female employees at the Coleman prison complex in Florida, with plaintiff awards higher than any other Title VII gender discrimination settlement in the ten past years. Managers at Coleman had ignored complaints about inmates masturbating - "gunning" - in front of female employees, and male officers who favored inmates treated gunning as a reward.

After years of delays, Columbia University has agreed to recognize the rights of graduate students to unionize - with some provisions. The agreement may have come when it did due to a planned strike on December 4, which would have affected the grading of final exams, and the university noted that the union may not strike until at least April 2020. The university also noted that any bargaining agreement must not impose on decision-making... "consistent with our educational and research mission." The United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents the students, have until November 28 to ratify the agreement, and talks with the students cannot begin later than February 25.

See Columbia finally recognizes graduate students' right to unionize, Verena Dobnik, U.S. News and World Report, Associated Press, Nov 19 2018

Dining workers, students, staff, and faculty members at Tufts University gathered to participate in a rally to protest the poor working conditions that dining workers have to endure. Union negotiations began in August following the workers’ vote to unionize, and a contract has yet to be reached as management refuses to make adequate concessions. Dining workers do not feel that what they are asking for is unreasonable; they would like job security, shorter hours, better treatment, and affordable health care. Interestingly, students have noted that a year ago dining workers were afraid to speak out against their conditions- now they are leading their own rallies. It seems that being part of a union has empowered workers to advocate for themselves.

See Ryan Shaffer, Tufts Daily, Nov 19 2018

In California, thousands of inmates volunteer to fight fires as part of a state-run rehabilitation program. While this program is valuable for participants, activists are concerned that incarcerated individuals are not being fairly compensated for their work and are discouraged from using their skills after they are released from prison. Inmates who fight California’s fires are paid a measly $2 a day, with a $1 an hour bonus when fighting active fires; this is not nearly enough given the dangerous nature of this work. Six inmates have died fighting fires in California since 1983. Despite being trained firefighters, incarcerated firefighters are discouraged from applying for positions with fire departments following their release. Many fire departments refuse to hire applicants who have previously been imprisoned.

See Mihir Zaveri, The New York Times, Nov 16 2018

Marriott hotel workers in San Francisco continue their six week strike. Earlier this week, the union representing the hotel workers engaged in negotiations with management for three days, but was unsuccessful in reaching an agreement. Workers are striking for higher wages, with the union claiming that the current wages are not livable, given that the Bay Area is so expensive. The strikes are anticipated to continue last the holidays, and will continue to cause event cancellations and reduced amenities.

See Ronald Li, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov 16 2018

Law360 has placed an inflatable rat outside of the Law360 offices in New York City in an attempt to draw attention to their ongoing labor dispute. Scabby the rat is frequently placed in front of buildings in NYC as a tactic used by unions to publically shame employers. Law360’s employees formed a union in 2016, and have been trying to negotiate a contract for two years with no success. Dozens of employees walked out of the office on Thursday to protest next to Scabby. The union has been increasing its activity over the past few months, and is prepared to go out on strike if an agreement is not reached soon.

See Daniel Marans, Huffington Post, Nov 16 2018

Teachers in at least 27 Iranian cities are holding sit-ins and protest signs for the second straight day to protest poor pay and working conditions, as well as pressure the government for necessary educational reforms. This is the second protest in a month; the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates, which encompasses the teachers' unions, said the strike was not associated with any domestic or foreign political faction. Iran’s Human Rights Activist News Agency has released a report in September that indicate the country had cracked down on labor unions in recent years, especially those representing teachers, with some activists serving multi-year jail terms.

Senator Bernie Sanders will be introducing a bill today that would require large companies with more than 500 workers to pay their workers at least $15 an hour in order to allow stock buybacks. Sanders has been a vocal critic of unethical business practices and a supporter for raising the minimum wage. The legislation, called The Stop Welfare for Any Large Monopoly Amassing Revenue from Taxpayers Act (Stop Walmart), is co-sponsored by California Representative Ro Khanna and would also require giving workers up to seven days of paid sick leave for themselves or to care for a family member, as well as limiting executive compensation at 150 times the median employee wage. Sanders had proposed a similar bill in September aimed at Amazon; the company then raised the minimum wage for its employees a month later. The new bill is unlikely to gain traction in the Republican Senate, but is seen as a sign of testing the campaign waters for the 2020 presidential election.

The Seattle City Council voted to approve a tentative contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild, giving police officers wage increases of over 17 percent over the six-year term, retroactive to 2015. The new contract will include reforms such as body-worn cameras and a civilian inspector with oversight powers, but community groups remain concerned that the contract will override a 2012 decree to address Department of Justice findings that Seattle police officers used biased policing and excessive force. U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over the decree, had recently expressed concerns over the contract, which is subject to his review to make sure it doesn’t conflict with the spirit of the decree.

Unionized riggers working for Rhino Staging have begun to protest their work conditions. Safety is of the utmost importance for riggers, who are frequently working dozens of feet above the ground as they prepare venues for performances by hanging props and adjusting lights. The union has alleged Rhino of failing to train new employees properly, and making them purchase their own safety equipment. Additionally, union members claim that the company retaliates against employees who speak out against their poor working conditions, by denying them work opportunities. While the union works to negotiate a new contract that includes a safety plan, workers will continue to protest at concerts.

See Melissa Hellmann, Seattle Weekly, Nov 14 2018

More than 500 teachers are preparing to participate in the first strike against a charter school in U.S. history. The union has made numerous demands of their employer including higher wages, smaller class sizes, and more classroom resources. Additionally, the union has demanded that the charter schools become “true sanctuary schools” because they serve a large number of Latinx students. A spokesperson for the union has stated that teachers would prefer to continue teaching, however, they will strike if that’s what is required to negotiate a fair contract.

See Michael Bologna, Bloomberg Law, Nov 14 2018

A pair of jeans produced by a social enterprise that employs people who formerly worked as slave laborers, sold out after being worn by the Dutchess of Sussex. However, this trend of marketing clothing as ethically produced has critics concerned regarding the efficacy of company claims that products are, in fact, slave-free. Consumers today are more aware of the negative impact that “fast fashion” has on the environment and on the laborers who are tasked with producing such items. While companies are eager to advertise their products as slave-free, it is incredibly difficult to prove that no worker abuse has taken place at any point in the supply chain.

See Kieran Guilbert , Reuters, Nov 14 2018

With 51.5% of ballots counted as of Monday, voters in Anaheim, California, appear to have passed Measure L, which would require hospitality businesses that get a city tax break to pay workers an hourly wage of at least $15 starting in January. The wage would increase $1 an hour each year until 2022, when wages would be tied to the cost of living. Over $7 million was collected in campaign contributions for and against the measure, with Disney being out-paced by labor groups. Business opponents warned that the higher wage would deter future hospitality ventures.

Several former and current USPS temporary workers are alleging that their work climate is biased against injured employees, with their requests for light duty ignored or with terminations after being injured on the job. More than 130,000 USPS workers are “non-career” employees – temporary workers who do not receive federal benefits. The federal agency, which has reduced its staff by 20,000 since 2005 due to budgetary constraints, has one of the highest rates of workplace injury in the country. In 2017, 42,000 USPS employees had compensation claims accepted for on-the-job injuries, and 12 workers died on the job. Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in favor of a class-action lawsuit that accused the USPS of discriminating against injured employees; the lawsuit is still pending.

Steelworkers in Trenton, Georgia, a small town of 2,200, disagree that the White House's 25% tariff on steel imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico have helped American workers and businesses. While managers at one steel company, Caparo Bull Moose Industries, think that the tariffs, meant to discourage the purchase of foreign steel, have been helpful, workers say that the benefits have not filtered down to employees. They believe that as soon as the tariffs were announced, the company stockpiled cheap steel and then, with negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement at a standstill for six months, locked workers out for five weeks, leaving workers on unemployment rates of $8.25 an hour when the normal hourly rate is $22.59. The lockout was the first in Georgia in 30 years, and the workers may be in for a another lockout if negotiations for the same contract initiated eight months ago continue to stall.

See Khushbu Shah , The Guardian, Nov 13 2018

Primary school teachers in Belfast are planning six days of strike activity due to unresolved disagreements with school management. About half of the 20 teachers at St Patrick’s Primary School are represented by the NASUWT union. The union’s secretary claims that teachers have chosen to engage in collective activity as a result of management “undermining their wellbeing.” Ultimately, teachers do not feel respected by management and have expressed that despite numerous attempts to resolve their issues, they have no choice but to strike.

See Robbie Meredith, BBC, Nov 12 2018

A recent analysis of 100 major companies revealed that most large companies are failing the U.N.’s human rights test. The test requires companies to prove that they are committed to human rights issues, such as eliminating child and forced labor and ensuring equal treatment of women. Of the 100 companies analyzed, Adidas had the highest ranking- scoring 87 of 100 points. Most firms scored less than 30 points. Starbucks, Prada, and Hermes were among those with the lowest scores. It is important to note that a low score does not mean that a company is engaging in poor practices, but that information regarding how the company plans to address human rights issues is unavailable.

See Umberto Bacchi, Reuters, Nov 12 2018

12 Chinese labor activists have gone missing in the past few days- most of them students or recent university graduates. Following a demonstration in August, police stormed an apartment where some of these students lived and detained them. After this incident occurred, Cornell University ended ties with a university in Beijing which was complicit in punishing students involved in organized activity. Now, 12 of these students have been taken by authorities. Individuals who are close to these students believe authorities have abducted them in an attempt to silence the movement they have started.

See Sue-Lin Wong, The Japan Times, Nov 12 2018

A North Korean worker has filed a complaint against a Dutch shipbuilding company, alleging the company of knowingly benefitting from forced labor. The worker claims to have been forced to work in unsafe, inhumane conditions for 12 hours a day at a shipyard that the shipbuilding company contracted with. Additionally, the worker claims that most of his wages were taken by the North Korean government. Interestingly, Dutch law explicitly forbids companies from benefitting financially from exploitation- even when that exploitation is indirect. This landmark case highlights weaknesses in the EU’s protections against slave labor and further discourages companies from utilizing slave labor.

See The Japan Times, Nov 9 2018

The Professional Pilots Union (PPU) is preparing to ballot its members to gauge interest in a strike against Virgin Atlantic for its refusal to bargain over benefits. The PPU represents half of the Virgin Atlantic pilots in Britain. The airline, which has refused to bargain, according to the PPU, does engage in negotiations with the PPU’s “rival” union, BALPA. A spokesperson from Virgin Atlantic has stated that the airline refuses to negotiate with the PPU because the union has demanded that the airline derecognize BALPA.

See Sarah Young, Reuters, Nov 9 2018

Employees at a Coca-Cola distributor in West Virginia went out on strike for a day to protest the company making “unilateral changes.” The union representing the Coca-Cola employees filed a complaint with the NLRB, alleging the company of violating federal labor laws. A spokesperson for the union stated that the strike was intended to encourage the company to “honor the law.” Evidently, the strike comes following many months of negotiations that have failed to result in a bargaining agreement. The employer is allegedly attempting to make drastic changes to the employee health insurance plan which would result in employees paying more for their healthcare plans.

See John Dahlia, West Virginia News, Nov 9 2018

Nestlé plans to colloborate with Sime Darby Plantation in Malaysia in setting up a pilot project that will help palm oil workers report working conditions, safety and other labor issues, using Laborlink mobile worker survey technology. The program aims to assess human rights issues and track effectiveness of actions taken. The helpline is the first of its kind in the palm oil industry; workers will be able to problems via SMS, Facebook Messenger, and a toll-free number available seven days a week. The move is the latest in Nestlé's attempt to improve its palm oil supply chain; it also recently commissioned a report along with members of the Consumer Goods Forum in assessing the forced labor situation in Malaysia and Indonesia - one of the findings was to ensure that workers have access to grievance mechanisms.

See Nestle to launch helpline for palm oil workers in Malaysia, Gaynor Selby, Food Ingredients 1st, Nov 8 2018

Staff members at the National Labor Relations Board protested and handed out leaflets outside the American Bar Association conference in San Francisco today, which had been attended by Board chairman John Ring. The employees are protesting further cuts to pay and benefits despite the agency having a budget surplus, along with the termination of two collective bargaining agreements in order to renegotiate terms. Staff members are also protesting the direction of labor policy under General Counsel Peter Robb, saying that recent moves by President Trump's appointees would diminish the NLRB and hamper the ability of American employees to file charges for unlawful workplace activities. The leaflets accuse Robb and Ring of a systemic attack on employees and the agency as a whole, pointing out federal employee surveys that indicate a drop in confidence in leadership at the NLRB.

Nigerian trade unions went on strike and were successful in their attempt to withhold their labor in order to raise the minimum wage. On the fourth day of the strike, the Nigerian government agreed to work with the unions to increase the wage. By working with a committee, the government has decided to raise the monthly minimum wage from 18,000 naira to 30,000 naira ($98). Some states already find it difficult to meet current wage requirements, and many economists fear that higher wages may cause inflation. Nonetheless, the government is actively working to push the proposal through as quickly as possible, to avoid additional labor disputes.

See Camillus Eboh, Reuters, Nov 7 2018

Rotating strikes have taken their toll on the Canada Post over the past few weeks, with the Toronto mail processing center being hit for the second time in three weeks. The Toronto mail processing center is the largest mail center in Canada, and currently has 4,500 of its workers out on the picket lines. The union continues to shut down major processing centers, which is having a severe impact on mail deliveries. The three processing centers that are closed currently process close to a million parcels per day, so the strikes have created a considerable backlog of parcels that need to be processed. The strikes come as a result of the failure of the union and management to reach a new agreement, following 10 months of negotiations.

See Financial Post, Nov 7 2018

Voters in Arkansas and Missouri have chosen to approve minimum wage increases. In Arkansas the wage will increase gradually from $8.50 to $11 by 2021. The minimum wage in Missouri will increase from $7.85 to $12 by 2023. The wage increases in both states will impact around 930,000 workers. Business owners fear that wage increases will have a negative impact on the overall number of people who are employed. Voters also weighed in in other labor issues related to unpaid prison labor, health-care workers, and dialysis clinics.

See Jaclyn Diaz, Bloomberg Law, Nov 7 2018

Google’s walkout last week, which included 20,000 workers globally that organized within less than a week, was more significant for taking place in a work culture known for individualism, and for reaching out to acknowledge worker struggles in other industries, such as the Marriott hotel workers that were striking in the same city. Individualism has been the Silicon Valley ethos for decades, where a single engineer could change the world, class struggles were a thing of the past, and unions were anti-innovation. The walkout symbolized a feeling that individual workers, no matter how well-paid, could not address Google’s recent issues alone. While rare that well-paid workers will protest working conditions, it is not without precedent. Two historical cases include the 2014 strike at Market Basket which included managers and executives, and when Major League baseball players hired Marvin Miller, a steelworkers union official, to represent them in what would become one of the strongest unions in the country.

The governor's race between incumbent Governor Tom Wolf and Republican Scott Wagner will affect the outcome of public sector unions in Pennsylvania, as the two candidates are polar opposites in their views towards unions. Wolf supports unions, saying that they negotiate for better wages and benefits for union employees such as teachers, whose unions are big supporters of Wolf's campaign. Federal research shows that unionized workplaces earn more money than those without unions; however, only 12% of Pennsylvania workers are in a union. Wagner supports the right-to-work mandate, which would prevent fees from being collected from non-members, and says that unions haven't helped with pension reforms, and that unions were power-hungry entities that have used dues for politicking.

See Governor's race will impact the power of labor in Pennsylvania, Sarah Anne Hughes, BillyPenn, Nov 6 2018

As artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data makes inroads into blue-collar industries, employees will see their jobs changing to require core competencies that are distinctly human. Employees will need to possess social and emotional intelligence, complex reasoning and problem solving, creativity, and even forms of sensory perception. While there appears to be nostalgia for high-paying blue collar jobs, with President Trump seeking to bring jobs back to American soil by rewriting trade agreements, increasing automation will change the way employees spend their time. In addition to knowing how to program and provide machine maintenance, employees need to know how to be part of a team process, with supervision over a variety of activities, including overseeing machines that are stymied by non-standard events. Positions will require more mental engagement, flexibility, and the ability to talk through conflict.

See As automation increases, jobs will require human ingenuity, Craig Torres, The Los Angeles Times, Nov 5 2018

The Labor Department is seeking to roll-back an Obama-era regulation that prevented 16-17 year olds from operating power lifts in nursing home and hospitals, citing an employer survey and letters from industry groups that stated that the rule was hurting employment opportunities for younger people in a field that suffers from labor shortages. About 56,000 teenagers ages 16 to 19 work as nursing, psychiatric or home health aides; the move would add 23,000 jobs. Critics say that the rollback will increase injuries, citing government research that concludes that 16 and 17 year olds cannot safely operate power lifts by themselves.

The report released by the Labor Department Friday morning revealed that the labor market has remained strong. 250,000 jobs were added in October alone, and unemployment is at 3.7 percent- nearly a 50 year low. While labor force participation has increased by 711,000 there are more open jobs than people willing to participate in the labor market. Wages have grown by 3.1 percent over the past year. However, nearly a quarter of Americans still do not earn enough money to cover their basic living expenses. Although the overall trends in the labor market are positive, there is still much work to be done.

See Patricia Cohen, The New York Times, Nov 2 2018

On Thursday, hundreds of Google employees staged a walkout to protest how sexual misconduct cases have been inappropriately handed by top execs. Google has been accused of giving multimillion dollar exit packages to execs involved in cases of sexual misconduct. Workers in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. participated in a mass walkout that included employees from 47 offices around the world. Employees documented the walkout on twitter using the hashtag Googlewalkout. The employees who arranged the protest have made demands that include greater transparency, producing public sexual harassment reports, employee representation on the board, and not forcing cases of sexual misconduct and harassment to go to arbitration.

See Olivia Carville, Bloomberg Law, Nov 2 2018

On Friday, India’s Prime Minister presented measures intended to support small and medium-sized businesses. Last year, the implementation of the Unified Goods and Services Tax (GST) put small firms out of business and causes hundreds of thousands of people to lose their jobs. As a result of the negative impact of the tax, Prime Minister Modi has fallen out of public favor- it seems these new measures are an attempt to regain voter support prior to next year’s elections. Some of the new measures that will attempt to strengthen small businesses include easier access to loans, loan discounts, and making it easier to comply with various labor laws and standards.

See Manoj Kumar & Krishna N. Das, Reuters, Nov 2 2018

L3 Technologies has agreed to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit that claims the company - whose major customer is the Department of Defense - favored employment applications of those were not active U.S. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members. The company denies the allegations, but has agreed to settle the suit for $2 million, while committing to scheduling policies that would accommodate active reserve members. A 1994 federal law prevents employers from discriminating against active Guard and Reserve members, who become temporarily ineligible to work when they are deployed, leaving employers with unfilled positions. The lawsuit claims recurring discrimination not only during the hiring process but during operations as well, where reservists are seen as "always trying to get out of work."

Unionized employees at UPS Freight (the industrial shipping unit that handles heavy shipments) will be voting on the company's latest contract offer next week and the company has warned its customers that a work stoppage may occur. The contract had been extended until November 12th. The company is preparing for a disruption in services, and has warned that the last day for freight pickups is next Wednesday and that it aims to clear its network of all freight by the end of that week The contract had been rejected by 62% of voters with about two-thirds of ballots cast. The union wants tighter restrictions on subcontracting out work, higher wage increases and getting rid of restrictions on qualifying for pension and vacation benefits.

See UPS warns customers of possible work stoppage as contract extension expires, Paul Ziobro, Wall Street Journal, Nov 1 2018

The top court in South Korea has decided that a Japanese company must compensate 4 people who were forced to work for the firm during World War II. Leaders in both South Korea and Japan are concerned that this ruling will encourage other forced laborers and their families to come forward, thus creating anti-Japan sentiment that will weaken the alliance between the two countries. During WWII an estimated 15,000 South Korean laborers were forced to work for Japanese firms. South Korea has not fully recovered from these war-era crimes, and some feel that Japan has not done enough to mend the wounds of the past. Japanese leadership would prefer to move on from WWII era issues and are displeased by the recent court ruling. Currently, Japanese leaders are waiting to see what South Korean officials do in response to this ruling but have stated that they may seek international arbitration.

See Linda Sieg & Hyonhee Shin, Reuters, Oct 31 2018

The National Nurses United union has filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that Johns Hopkins Hospital management has been engaging in anti-union activity. The union claimed that management prohibited nurses from discussing unionization while at work, and prevented nurses from coming in to work on their days off to talk to their colleagues about unionization efforts. The NLRB agreed with the union that the hospital has been discouraging unionization in ways that directly violate federal labor law. While the hospital claims to disagree with the NLRB’s findings, the board intends to file a formal complaint if the hospital doesn’t decide to settle.

See Andrea K. McDaniels, The Baltimore Sun, Oct 31 2018

In September, the NLRB proposed a new regulation that would change who is defined as a “joint employer." While Obama held office, the rule was changed to include employers who had direct or indirect control over an employee. The new definition would exclusively define joint employers as firms that have direct control over an employee. Democratic senators and large unions have asked the board to extend the comment period by 60 days, and to hold public hearings as well. While the board has refused to hold public hearings, the comment period will be extended by 30 days. The board is intent on passing the new regulation and will not be “derailed” by “political distractions.”

See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Oct 31 2018

A forthcoming study to be published in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review revealed that women in unionized workplaces are more likely to use maternity leave than women in nonunionized workplaces. Only 4 out of 10 women use maternity leave in the U.S., often due to financial hardships. Even when states provide paid maternity leave, many female workers choose not to take it, in order to avoid losing overtime or bonus pay, or because there’re not aware of the benefit. The study found that the likelihood of a working woman using available maternity leave depends on four factors – affordability, awareness, availability, and assurance. Union women are more likely to have access to a variety of benefits and to be aware of those benefits, due to the presence of union representatives who serve as educators and advocates.

The National Labor Relations Board announced recently that unions should be required to show that established, systems are in place in order to track grievances and communicate their status to workers. Unions that do not do so may be liable and at fault for poor representation if failing to process worker grievances in a timely fashion. Prior to the new policy, unions were only at fault if they had acted in bad faith. The labor board said that there had been an increasing number of cases where the union had defended itself due to negligence rather than it had acted in bad faith.

Dissatisfied with CEO Sundar Pichai’s reaction to a report detailing Google's response to alleged sexual harassment by company executives, more than 200 Google workers are planning to walk out later this week, with a list of requests for the company to consider. Pichai had attempted to reassure employees on Friday after a New York Times story was publishing that revealed that the company had paid a $90 million exit package to Android chief Andy Rubin after he was accused of sexually harassing a worker in a hotel room in 2013. On Thursday Pichai had sent an email to staff indicating that policy had been updated so that all vice presidents and senior vice presidents were required to disclose any relationship with a co-worker, and that 48 people had been terminated for sexual harassment in the last two years.

See Google employees plan to protest handling of sexual harassment claims, Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, Oct 30 2018

As the newly formed Harvard graduate student union prepares to bargain for the first time, they are tasked with determining who will be part of the bargaining unit. This is particularly challenging because the bargaining unit is complex due to the unpredictable nature of student employment. The union members will be undergraduate employees, graduate students, and research assistants. However, when these students begin and end their teaching varies by program and department need. Job descriptions and titles vary by department as well so it is difficult to determine who should be considered part of the bargaining unit.

See Shera S. Avi-Yonah & Molly C. McCafferty, The Harvard Crimson, Oct 29 2018

There have been five days of flight cancellations as a result of baggage handlers at Brussels airport going out on strike. 660 flights have been cancelled since Thursday due to the labor dispute between baggage handlers and management. The baggage handlers are on strike because they are under excessive pressure attributable to being short-staffed. While the strike did not receive prior authorization from the union, the workers plan to continue their protest until Tuesday.

See Jan Strupczewski & Philip Blenkinsop, Reuters, Oct 29 2018

Cornell’s ILR School has decided to end its research and exchange program with Remnin University in Beijing. This decision comes after students at the university who were attempting to organize to fight for workers’ rights were punished, intimidated, and detained against their will. The Communist Party in China views collective activity as a threat and has required universities to subdue these kinds of activities. An assistant professor in the ILR School, Eli Friedman, explained that the tactics used by Remnin University officials are a “major violation of academic freedom,” which is why Cornell has chosen to discontinue its relationship with the University.

See Javier C. Hernández, The New York Times, Oct 29 2018

Following the release of a New York Times story that alleged that Google had protected employees from allegations of sexual assault by offering them severance packages, Google’s CEO sent an email to his staf in order to offer clarity regarding the firm’s sexual assault policies. In the email, Pichai explained that 48 Google employees have been fired over the past two years due to sexual assault allegations. He reported that none of the employees were offered “exit packages.” The CEO and VP of People Operations reminded employees of the anonymous reporting mechanisms that are available, in the event that harassment does occur. Additionally, the execs explained the company’s policy that requires all vice presidents and senior vice presidents to communicate with HR personnel if they are in a relationship with a co-worker. Pichai stated that the company remains committed to creating a safe workplace and holding employees accountable for inappropriate conduct.

See Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Reuters, Oct 26 2018

Transportation services were disrupted for 24 hours while multiple trade unions were out on strike. Milan experienced the worst of the strike, with no buses or trams in operation outside of morning and evening rush hours. Transportation personnel was protesting poor working conditions, being understaffed, and an overall low financial investment in public transportation services. Currently, the government is responsible for the funding and management of transportation services. However, in November a vote will take place to determine whether or not transportation services should be eligible for privatization.

See Cristiano Corvino, Reuters, Oct 26 2018

The Papua New Guinea Government recently purchased 40 luxury vehicles in preparation for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference. It is the first time that Papua New Guinea will host the conference, which will involve many economic leaders attending conferences in the country throughout the year. The fleet of Maserati that the government purchased is intended to shuttle economic leaders to and from their meetings. However, this purchase has caused a lot of upset- many transportation workers went on strike for a day to protest the excessive spending. Other citizens who were questioned claim that the protest is due to discontent with unreliable, “self-serving” political leadership.

See Helen Davidson & Kate Lyons, The Guardian, Oct 26 2018

Two of the three coal mines in Colorado’s Delta county, which used to employ thousands of full-time miners, closed between 2014 and 2016, leaving roughly 800 miners out of work. Rather than see family and friends leave the community in search of new jobs, schools consolidate and other businesses close, a couple that owned a start-up tech company decided to open up their barn into a training facility, where 80 miners so far have learned how to splice fiber. Local utility companies were anxious to expand broadband internet, and rural residents have often suffered from a lack of fast internet that leaves communities behind compared to bigger cities. In a recent nationwide survey of 1300 adults living in rural communities, rural Americans said the key to finding new jobs close to home was easy access to training opportunities. Besides finding jobs closer to home, rural Americans would prefer to have friends and family nearby, including children who would normally move away to find jobs. Fiber optics have helped Delta county move on from coal mining and its population, rather than declining for the first time in years, is attracting those who want the small-town life.

The current Progressive Conservative government in Ontario, Canada, holding to its campaign promise to treat businesses better, has revised some of the previous administration’s Bill 148, which had determined that the province’s minimum wage would rise to $15 this year and that 10 personal days would be granted to employees (two of them paid). The current government will freeze the minimum wage at $14 until 2020, whereupon it will be raised annually with ties to inflation. It’s also cutting personal leave days to 7 days, all of them unpaid. Part-time employees will be paid less than full-time employees doing the same job. Businesses had complained that the passage of Bill 148 led to great hardships that required cutting staff and raising prices; the current administration thus ran on the platform to (make) “Ontario Open for Business”. Labor groups and some business owners were not happy with the decision that “removes workers’ rights”.

Two years after voting to unionize and with no contract yet in place, the employees of Law360, a Lexis-Nexis unit, have voted 141-11 on authorizing a strike. The notable legal news website joins a wave of unionizing activities amongst online media outlets in recent years, including the Guardian, Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, in part due to greater sensitivity to anti-union campaigns and workplace controversy. Prior to the vote to unionize, the company had brought in anti-union specialists to tell employees that union dues were expensive and the unions might approve contracts that weren’t favorable to employees. Law360 officials commented that they wanted employees to hear both sides in order to make an informed decision. The vote to strike had been prompted by stalemates with the company on issues involving job security and paid holidays.

See Law360 workers authorize strike after two years with no contract, Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Law, Oct 25 2018

Following an investigation that revealed that Microsoft had been discriminating against female employees, the Department of Labor had nearly reached an agreement with Microsoft officials- and then the DOL rescinded the agreement. The DOL found that Microsoft was not compensating female employees fairly, and was promoting women less frequently than men. Initially, the DOL intended to simply let Microsoft compensate the women who were found to have been impacted, and avoid disclosing to the public the findings that make it clear that the company was engaging in discriminatory practices. However, In July the DOL decided that this agreement was not sufficient and that it is necessary to enforce a harsher penalty in this case. In recent years, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has begun to focus more on fair compensation and holding tech firms accountable. While the OFCCP is unable to comment because the details of this case are confidential, a Microsoft spokesperson has stated that the company remains committed to employing a diverse workforce.

See Chris Opfer & Paige Smith, Bloomberg BNA, Oct 24 2018

A federal appeals panel recently overturned a ruling that took place last year that dismissed a suit brought against Nestle and Cargill by six former child slaves- meaning the foreign plaintiffs will finally get their day in court. The former child slaves involved in this case were kidnapped and forced to work up to 14 hours per day, without pay. Nestle and Cargill are being accused of “aiding and abetting” slave labor in the cocoa fields that they purchase from. Judges found that the US companies were aware that slave labor was involved in the production of the cocoa that they use to make their products, and they also found that the companies were giving personal spending money to cocoa farms investigated by US officials. These payments were intended to ensure that the companies would continue to receive cocoa at low prices- prices that are only achievable when labor is not compensated.

See Erik Larson, Bloomberg, Oct 24 2018

AFSCME Local 3299, the University of California’s largest union, is picketing for the second time in six months. Union employees are fighting for higher wage increases, and greater job security. The strike began with the medical center’s patient-care technical unit, however, the service employee unit has agreed to join the strike in solidarity. The employer has agreed to reveal details of the dispute to the media, and has reported that the union has requested a 36% wage increase over a period of four years. UCD officials have made it clear that they offer wages and benefits that are greater than those of competitors in the industry. Additionally, the union is displeased that management has made the decision to outsource labor. University officials have made it clear that they are committed to ensuring that patients receive high quality care during this time, despite the union activity that is taking place.

See Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee, Oct 24 2018

A New York Times investigation has found that many female workers in strenuous jobs may be denied their requests for lighter duty work, even when accompanied by a doctor’s note, as denying a request to accommodate the worker isn’t necessarily illegal. The 40-year-old Pregnancy Discrimination Act is the only federal law created to protect expectant female workers; companies have to accommodate pregnant employees’ requests only if it is already doing so for other workers who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Pregnancy discrimination can take several forms – limited promotions or raises, termination in lieu of maternity leave – but workers in physically taxing jobs have an additional worry. Several female workers have miscarried at a Tennessee warehouse owned by XPO Logistics, a contractor for Verizon that manages packing and shipping phones, and last year one woman had cardiac arrest while on duty. Verizon is investigating in response to the NYT report. The warehouse was already known for hard working conditions due to temperatures that reach over 100 degrees with no air-conditioning; regular work duties include moving boxes up to 45 pounds. Medical research have established a link between physically demanding work and fetal death; a peer-reviewed study from 2013 found that the risk of fetal death increased as women lifted heavier objects more frequently.

See Pregnancy discrimination delivers fatal toll on women denied lighter duties, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Natalie Kitroeff, The New York Times, Oct 23 2018

Thousands of council workers in Glasgow, Scotland, proceeded with their plans to conduct a 48-hour strike today, closing hundreds of schools and nurseries, and affecting the availability of home care services. Museums, leisure services and libraries will remain open but cafes and cleaning services could be disrupted. At issue are approximately 12,000 claims of unequal pay, despite a job evaluation plan introduced more than a decade ago that was supposed to alleviate pay inequality. Instead, jobs that were declared to be of equal value are still being paid inequally between female-dominated and male-dominated industries. The local authority had announced in January that it planned to reach a negotiated settlement to the claims, but local unions say there have been no progress despite 21 meetings in the past 10 months. Activist group Action 4 Equality estimates that backdated claims and pay increases could eventually cost between 500 million and 1 billion euros; the council disputes that number but admits that financial challenges exist.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have continued with enforcing White House administration priorities to detain illegal immigrants, with the latest raid in northeast Texas, reducing the supply of welders by half at a trailer processing plant in Tigertown. Turning raw steel into trailers is hard physical labor involving cutting heavy metal, dragging it into place, and arc-welding it, amidst strident noise and sparks — but Load Trail has always had difficulty in getting American workers to do the welding work, which can result in broken fingers and burns amongst other injuries. 300 ICE agents descended and rounded up over 150 undocumented workers on August 28th, with criminal investigations into the company continuing. Tigertown is a tiny community where several trailer manufacturers have set up shop – all of whom employ unauthorized immigrants to do the work. While the strongly conservative state voted for the current presidential administration in 2016, locals are in agreement that guest workers are needed and are sympathetic to the uprooted welders. In 2018, ICE agents have struck at 7-Eleven stores, a meatpacking plant, dairy and vegetable farms and a feedlot.

See ICE raids depletes welder supply in Tigertown, Texas, John Burnett, NPR, Oct 23 2018

The UK government plans to implement a scheme to address the labor abuse and slavery that is taking place at hand car washes across the country. Individuals coming from Eastern Europe to work at hand car washes are frequently subject to poor working conditions, violence, and debt bondage. Most workers at these small firms are estimated to be victims of exploitation, according to modern slavery experts. The responsible Car Wash Scheme will attempt to combat worker slavery and abuse by auditing hand car washes, recognizing those that operate legally, and increasing investment into the anti-slavery drive so that more investigations can take place.

See Kieran Guilbert, Reuters, Oct 22 2018

An investigative panel recently found that Japanese ministries have been falsifying their records regarding their numbers of employees with disabilities, in order to meet legal quotas. In Japan, public employers must ensure that employees with disabilities make up at least 2.5% of their workforce. Japanese ministries included thousands of people in their numbers of employees with disabilities who did not have documented disabilities-many people included in this number were retired, while some were even dead. All of the ministries denied intentionally falsifying numbers, however the panel assumes that they intended to inflate numbers to meet quotas. In response to these findings, the government has announced plans to employ over 4,000 people with disabilities and strategies to prevent this kind of misconduct from taking place in the future.

See The Japan Times, Oct 22 2018

Three trade unions in Nigeria are threatening to continue their strikes indefinitely if the government does not make an immediate effort to meet their demands for higher wages. The minimum wage in Nigeria is currently 18,000 naira ($49.59) per month. Unions compromised with government officials to come up with a new minimum wage of 30,000 naira ($82.64). However, unions have yet to see the new minimum wage agreement become law. The unions have stated that if they do not see that the government has made progress towards increasing the minimum wage by November 6, they will go back out on strike.

See Camillus Eboh, Reuters, Oct 22 2018

A Marriott owned hotel is under investigation by the California Labor Commissioner’s office after the union, representing cleaning staff, brought numerous allegations against hotel management and its third-party staffing agency. Marriott workers in multiple cities are currently on strike. In Chicago, the company is being sued for not paying workers properly. In California, the union has made claims that Marriott is exploiting undocumented workers. Hotel management insists that the allegations being made by the union are false, and are an attempt to increase bargaining power.

See Paige Smith, Bloomberg Law, Oct 19 2018

Over 350 students and staff members participated in a pro-labor walkout at the University of Chicago on Thursday. Last year, graduate students voted to unionize in an NLRB election but decided not to move forward due to apprehension about the NLRB’s new Republican majority using the case to change their position regarding graduate students’ right to form unions. Students at the walkout rallied to protest low wages, and inadequate benefits- echoing the concerns of other graduate students across the country. When asked to comment, the University expressed continued support of free speech and a commitment to working with graduate students to resolve this issue.

See William Yuen Yee, The Chicago Maroon, Oct 19 2018

Ryanair is making progress towards labor agreements with pilots in numerous countries, following costly strikes. The airline agreed to recognize unions for the first time almost a year ago, and has struggled to manage labor relations since then. This agreement led to a multitude of strikes that have put the company in a poor financial position- ultimately encouraging the firm to make concessions and agree to bargain. The company has reached agreements with both Portuguese and Italian unions, is making progress in Britain, and it appears that Spanish pilots will be up next for union recognition. While there is more work still to be done, it appears that Ryanair is making progress and will continue to do so in order to better the firm’s financial position.

See Padraic Halpin, Reuters, Oct 19 2018

Two senators are taking Amazon to task on work environments that prevent workers from voicing concerns as well as pursuing union activities. Amazon had recently raised its minimum wage for US workers, following a campaign spearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders to reproach the company for low wages. Now, Senators Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are reproving the retail giant over an Amazon video that was sent to managers at Amazon’s Whole Food Markets, warning them of union organizing “signs” such as workers who mention “living wage” and “steward”, and who hand out fliers and wear union shirts. The video also stated that unions were not “in the best interest of our customers”. Under federal labor law, managers are allowed to predict what happens were workers to unionize, but they cannot make threats if they were to do so. The two senators are also bringing up reports that workers have been retaliated against when voicing concerns over low pay and stressful work environments.

See Senators criticize Amazon over possible anti-union behavior, Jeff Stein, The Washington Post, Oct 18 2018

The Walt Disney Company and labor unions in Anaheim have been contributing well over half of all contributions towards election campaigns that will determine the fate of a disputed initiative – Measure L - as well as the majority of seats on the Anaheim City Council, giving the two entities more say in Disney’s hometown. Measure L, an initiative that labor unions helped place on the ballot, would require large hospitality companies that receive a city subsidy to pay their workers a living wage. Disney is the largest employer and economic driver in Anaheim, with approximately 30,000 employees; its three hotels along with other hotels generate occupancy taxes that comprise 46% of the city’s $330 million general fund budget. Disney’s relationship with the city has been less comfortable since 2014, when an ACLU lawsuit was filed that gave Latino residents more say in city politics by changing the way city council members were elected. Labor unions who represent Disney workers have out-donated Disney, with $1.5 million in contributions – about 34% of campaign funds so far. Opponents to Measure L say that the higher salaries would impede new hotels from being built in Anaheim and thus affecting the construction industry and its workers.

The thousands of undocumented workers who staff Louisiana’s seafood industry not only have to contend with physically dangerous work, but many have to duck sexual harassment as well. The workers remain quiet, because the owners of large seafood processing plants located in rural areas are often on good terms with local police, and they fear being reported to the police and being deported. They also fear police brutality, reportedly common against “guest” workers. One owner threatened violence against workers if they spoke about poor working conditions. The recently formed Seafood Workers Alliance – currently comprised of hundreds of members from 15 different plants in Louisiana – is helping workers organize to address these issues by suing employers and building community alliances – particularly with the African-American community - to help workers push back when abuses occur. Some low wage employers have tried pitting African-American workers against Latino workers, saying that guest workers have come to Louisiana to take their jobs. The Alliance has built enough momentum to help reinstate seven workers who had lost their jobs, including the president of the Alliance who had lost his job when trying to convince management to raise the wages from $9 an hour to $12 an hour.

A group of Harvard undergraduates, graduate students, and union members are protesting the dismissal of Harvard University Health Services employee, Malyi Shing. The group held a demonstration on Thursday where they went to confront the University’s Director of Labor and Employee Relations, in his office. Shing was dismissed by the university after making allegations of racism and sexual harassment in her workplace. While the University claims that Shing was terminated because of “insubordinate conduct,” she insists that her dismissal was retaliation against her for making said allegations. Additionally, it wasn’t until five months following her dismissal that she began receiving unemployment benefits, which resulted in significant financial hardship for Shing. The Harvard activist group is ultimately fighting for the University to reimburse Mayli Shing for the five months she endured without benefits, and reinstate her as an employee.

See Molly C. McCafferty, The Harvard Crimson, Oct 17 2018

Union employees of the South African weapons manufacturer, Denel, are protesting pay cuts and reduced working hours. The employee upset began after the company failed to pay managers their full wages last month and owners revealed that they may not be able to pay full employee salaries in the future as a result of their dire financial situation. While protests continue, a company spokesperson claims that there is no dispute between labor and management. However, the protests taking place currently are not legally protected, so there is nothing to prohibit management from dismissing striking employees.

See Nomvelo Chalumbira, Reuters, Oct 17 2018

A UPS union wants to change part of a labor contract that was recently ratified. While 54.2% of union members who participated voted to reject the contract, the contract was ratified because less than half of the bargaining unit voted. When this occurs, the union must have two-thirds of members voting no in order to reject the agreement. Some union members are upset because they feel that this vote is not representative of their opinion of the contract. Members take issue specifically with part of the contract that will create a new class of drivers who work on the weekends for a lower starting salary. According to a Labor Education Program Director at the University of Illinois, the outlook for the union is grim- even if the union is allowed the opportunity to re-vote and the contract is rejected. The director believes that the union lacks leverage, and the employer is unlikely to make concessions regardless of whether or not the contract is ultimately ratified.

See Andrew Wallender, Bloomberg Law, Oct 17 2018

Over 8,000 council workers in Glasgow, many of them women who have never been on picket lines, are planning to strike for two days next week to protest long-standing pay disparities. The strike will affect homecare, schools, nurseries, cleaning and catering services across the country, which is estimated to be the biggest pay-related strike seen in the United Kingdom. The issue stems from a 2006 decision by the Glasgow council to introduce a job evaluation plan that would address gender pay disparities, but female workers say that it furthered discrimination because despite female-dominated jobs (such as catering and cleaning) being declared of equal value to male-dominated jobs (such as trash pickup), those positions were still paid less due to a complex system that was detrimental to people who worked split shifts and irregular hours. Critics have accused the unions of favoring male workers with labor relations disputes over female workers for decades and of only using the current pay dispute to curry favor with the current Scottish National Party administration.

U.S. Steel reached a provisional agreement with the United Steelworkers union for a new collective bargaining agreement for their 14,000+ workers that would break the previous agreement’s three-year wage freeze. In ironing out the terms of the proposed four year contract, the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker suggested raising wages for those in the lowest tier by approximately 21% by September 2023. The union has pointed out that increased costs for the health insurance coverage would counteract much of that raise. The contract still needs to be ratified and voted on by workers.

The choice of CEOs to choose lightening-rod celebrities in order to market products, or who limit current product supply lines to align with personal beliefs, are altering taboos of having politics at work. Corporate managers, who have traditionally declined to choose sides on sensitive topics at work, are increasingly making their positions known. For example, Levi Strauss’s CEO, who made a $1 million donation on behalf of the company towards preventing gun violence, experienced hate mail and threats towards him and his family, with some of the angry responses coming from employees, who felt that the company’s donation was hostile towards their gun ownership rights. CEO-sourced activism has increased since 2014, when Apple CEO Tim Cook openly supported gay rights, while the then-CEO of Starbucks shared an open letter about racial tensions in the country. Since then, Nike has chosen NFL quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick to represent the brand, while Dick’s Sporting Goods has chosen to raise the age for buying a gun to 21, while also pulling assault-type guns from store shelves. Society in recent years has become increasingly polarized, enabled by social media amplifying the ability to spread passionate opinions towards influencers. Corporations who choose to be influencers may play up their partisan identities, which can impact recruitment of younger workers.

See CEOs who market activism transform politics at work, Yuki Noguchi, NPR, Oct 16 2018

The graduate student union at the University of Iowa has struggled to reeducate members and establish a new system for collecting dues, following the implementation of new laws that impact the collective-bargaining rights of public employees. Public-sector unions must now be re-certified every time their contracts expire. More than 50% of the members in a bargaining unit need to vote in order for re-certification to take place. Members are counted as voting “no” if they do not vote. Additionally, unions in the public sector are no longer allowed to collect dues via payroll deductions. The graduate student union leadership is concerned that members will not show up to vote for re-certification, and is struggling to become stable financially as a result of the new laws that have significantly diminished union power.

See Aadit Tambe, The Daily Iowan, Oct 15 2018

The management of an Indian rock quarry has been convicted of holding employees in debt bondage, and using violence to enslave workers. In India, “bonded labor” has been banned since 1976, but remains prevalent due to poor enforcement mechanisms. Typically when survivors are rescued, their cases are not pursued by the legal system; less than 2% of these cases result in a conviction. However, the court that oversaw this specific case sentenced the employers involved to over 11 years in jail. The hope is that this strict sentence will send a message to employers, and set a new precedent for cases involving slave labor.

See Anuradha Ngaraj, Reuters, Oct 15 2018

The Janus v. AFSCME decision stated that unions cannot require employees who are not union members to pay dues, unless they consent to doing so. Following this decision, employees have filed five lawsuits against unions in an attempt to recover more than $150 million in union dues that were paid previously, but are now considered unconstitutional as a result of Janus. Although courts have rejected many of these lawsuits, fighting them in court is a huge expense. Unions are already suffering from a loss of revenue as a result of no longer receiving dues from nonmembers, who will inevitably benefit from union negotiations.

See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Oct 15 2018